September 18, 2008                                               
Contact: Emanuel Costache ’09
Media Relations Intern

AMHERST, Mass.—As part of the school’s continued support of the community and commitment to green initiatives, Amherst College is opening its Zipcar car sharing program to off-campus participants. Starting on Oct. 1, the college’s Zipcar vehicles will be made available to town residents who are members of the nationwide Zipcar program, which enables drivers to reserve a car online or by telephone 24 hours a day and up to a year in advance. To accommodate the expected additional demand, the school will add a third car to its fleet.

“There was some external interest in the initiative from people off campus, including town leaders, families of Amherst employees and University [of Massachusetts] community members,” explained Communications and Parking Supervisor Michael Abbatessa, who oversees the program at the college. “Our students tell us how convenient and easy the Zipcars are to use, and we felt people in town could benefit from them as well.” When the plan to open the initiative to the community was presented to town leaders, all parties “wholeheartedly endorsed it,” said Abbatessa.

The college introduced the Zipcar program to students, faculty and staff in 2006 and has much success with it. Those affiliated with the school will still be able to rent one of its Zipcar vehicles at an annual fee of $35 and at rates starting at $8 per hour and $60 per day. Detailed descriptions of these plans are available online at

Any licensed driver aged 21 or over with a good driving record can apply to join Zipcar’s nationwide program. Once approved by the company, members receive a “Zipcard” that provides automated access to unlock and drive any Zipcar anywhere. The company pays for gas by way of a gas card located in each Zipcar, and the expense is built into the rental cost. For $50 a year, occasional drivers can reserve a vehicle for $8 per hour or $60 per day. Reduced rates and annual fee waivers are available for more frequent drivers under “Extra Value Plans.” Membership applications are available online at

Starting with 22 cars in 1999, Zipcar now has 5,500 vehicles and 225,000 members nationwide and estimates that each Zipcar eliminates the need for 14 privately owned cars. The company has calculated that it has taken 75,000 vehicles off the road.